Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan have successfully tested a vaccine that could help save the pig farming industry from a devastating virus.
Scientists began looking into the vaccine in 2014 after the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV) entered Canada. The research team worked out of the university’s new containment level three facility, known as the U of S Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac).
“We recognized that it was a very important disease,” said Dr. Volker Gerdts, the director of InterVac Research. “We put together a very large team of researchers and put our heads together and really did this.”
By 2015, they had developed a formula for the vaccine and have since spent time going through regulatory processes and conducting field tests. Those results have shown the vaccine is able to protect most, if not all, piglets from the deadly virus.
PEDV was first discovered in Europe, but reached the U.S. in 2013. Since then, it has taken the lives of eight million pigs and cost the industry $400 million.
It’s known as a “coronavirus,” in the same stream of viruses that includes SARS, and can kill up to 100 per cent of infected piglets.
“It’s a terrible disease,” Gerdts said. “We’ve seen the pigs dying in our facilities here. They typically die within days.”
With the success of the U of S vaccine, the formula has now been brought to European supplier Huvepharma to begin mass production.
The company has expressed a commitment to making the vaccine available as soon as possible, but it could take more than a year due to the Canadian regulatory process.